Raising Hummer Chicks

February 24, 2013  •  3 Comments



It's Twins: Two Boys, or Two Girls, or a Boy and a Girl (I have no idea!)

I arrived at 7:30 this morning to find one hatchling and one egg. I'm guessing this little guy is about 15 hours old.

Anna Anna Anna Hummingbirds hatch with their eyes closed, weighing about 1/3 of a dime.

Mama spent the day incubating the remaining egg, now she has a little one to feed.

Anna Each time she left the nest I checked on the egg. By mid-day Mama was very used to me being there. The winds kicked up, the nest went for quite a ride. A branch got stuck with its leaves confining Mama on the nest. I moved the branch, Mama never flinched, she didn't fly off when I got that close. That really surprised and pleased me.

Anna Mama has more freedom now to come and go, but never gone for long, she has to keep the newborn warm.

Then, around 2pm... The second egg started to go!

Anna Anna Anna Anna

In a few days they will double in size, their beaks will darken, and they will be covered in little fuzzy pinfeathers, regulating their own body heat after 9-10 days.

Anna Back with some fresh fluff. Meticulous Mama keeping the nest up to code.

Anna Occasionally a male hummingbird would come too close and Mama would get aggressive. The male's brightly colored feathers are considered a threat that will attract predators. Go get 'em!


Feeding time again... The babies, unable to see, feel the wind from Mom's wings and know it's time to eat.


Anna BIG yawns...

Anna I've never seen a hummer's tongue like that, quite interesting!


What a busy day. Now a little hummer time out.


Rest your eyes Mama, you're doing a great job!


2.25.2013   1 day old

Anna My guess is that the two chicks were born a day apart, the first one late afternoon on the 23rd, the second one hatched on my watch around 2:30 on the 24th. Look at the size difference, one is about 50% larger than the other. Their infant hairs are filling in.

Anna Egg shells on the head, too cute.

Anna Speaking of egg shells... Mama is doing a little house cleaning, throwing out some of the debris.

Anna A quick pit stop. She would sit for awhile, her eye lids would get heavy, but then she would hear something and perk up. Always on duty.

Anna's hummingbird, Calypte annaI had to climb a small tree to get a high enough angle to shoot her feeding the chicks. Once in the tree, I had to stand to get the camera even higher up. Not very comfortable (and a bit too precarious) but worth it to get the shots.


You can see Mama's beak through the chick's throat skin. Amazing how she gets her beak so far down into this tiny creature.


She has a bug on her beak. I didn't know the babies can eat solid food so soon. Hummingbirds get their protein from bugs. Mama eats a mixture of bugs and nectar, then regurgitates the slurry for feeding.

Anna Anna Anna's hummingbird, Calypte annaI saw the older chick start to move rather deliberately to the edge of the nest. It caught my attention, I was curious about what he was doing.

Anna Then he put his rear end up and...

Anna Hummingbirds are toilet trained at birth, doing everything they can to dispose of waste over the side of the nest.

Anna's hummingbird, Calypte annaAnna

Thanks Mama for another great day of photos!


2.26.2013  2 days old

Had to change my set up yesterday. About 4 feet up a tree, holding myself up there with my left leg, while putting all my weight on my right foot, which is on a small tree (feels like the rung of a ladder), while trying to find a stable place for the monopod. Not comfortable, but worth it to get a better angle on shooting the nest.

Up and down the tree several times to get the flash set up (using low power, I am respectful of their environment). Then I stay in the tree while she is on the nest, constantly watching through the lens. When Mom leaves I climb down and grab the little mirrorless camera for the close-up nest shots. Then back up the tree to get Mom returning and hopefully feeding.

Anna Okay, we're talking centimeters here! The younger chick is only 1/2 centimeter wide, the older one is about 3/4 Cm wide. The diameter of the outside of the nest is 1.5 inches, inside diameter is about an inch.

Anna Look at the younger chick's little wing and leg. So very tiny!

Anna "Hurry Up Mom!"

The chicks know when Mom is coming.

Anna "I'm home."

Anna Getting ready to feed...


"Mom, what are you waiting for?"


Mama is filling up the chick with a mixture of bugs and nectar. You can see the little one's tongue.

Anna All the way down!

Anna Here you can see a bug in the baby's mouth.

Anna Mama just finished feeding, those are bug wings on her beak.

Anna's hummingbird, Calypte annaAnna Be off with your aggressive self!


Good Night Mama, Sweet Dreams.


2.28.2013  5 days old

Anna At 4 and 5 days old they almost fill up the bottom of the nest.


They have gotten darker. Looks like their eyes might be opening soon.

The chicks were napping when I checked on them this afternoon, although never too tired to eat...


Till next time...


3.3.2013  8 days old

Look at the size difference after only 3 day's growth! They can't lay in the nest without turning their head.

Anna They slept the entire three hours I was there, other than five feedings. Mama was gone from the nest for most of my visit.

I spent a lot of time in the tree "at the ready" waiting for Mama to return. I didn't know I needed to prep my monkey muscles before I started this project!

Anna Their pinfeathers have started to grow, poking through the skin one by one.

I brought Mama a meal to show my appreciation, trying to make up for my intrusions.


She knew immediately what it was. This nest is in an area where there are no feeders nearby, I didn't think she would know it was a dinner delivery. Maybe she used to be a city hummer and moved to the country to raise her kids.

Anna's hummingbird, Calypte annaHummingbirds flap their wings in a figure 8 motion, about 20-30 times per second.

They consume more than their own weight in nectar every day. They store just enough energy to survive overnight by going into a hibernation-like state called "torpor". Their metabolic rate slows to 1/15th of normal. As the day warms, their body temperature rises and they resume their normal activity. Here is a video of a hummingbird who overslept: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iNOKW8NkAVM

Drink up Mama!


You can see Mom feeding them ants. Hummers use their tongue like a needle in a sewing machine to get the bugs down into the chick.

Anna Anna Anna's hummingbird, Calypte annaBellies bloated with bugs... all that protein fueling healthy growth.

Anna And healthy growth means healthy...

Anna Whoohoo what a shot! Both for the chick and for me :-)


Mama's "Sewing Needle" Tongue


3.5.2013  10 days old

Anna Their eyes are opening, their pinfeathers are sprouting, still sleeping continuously.

Anna Look how big they are getting.

Anna Down the hatch.

Anna And once again...




3.7.2013  12 days old

We're having some rain, started last night. Made a quick stop this morning, in between the precipitation, to check on the chick's last 48 hours of development. I knew to wear my rubber boots!

This area is usually dry, or at most, a little squishy.

Water... everywhere I step...

Anna Look... Their feathers now reflect color!

Anna They are definitely close nest mates.

After feeding she flew directly at me, letting me know my time there was done. I thanked her and quickly went on my way.

Every mom deserves respect!


3.9.2013  14 days old


They have awareness now. As I walked up to the nest he opened his eye obviously aware of me.

Most of the time I've been here, I could hear another female hummer busy at work behind me. I never paid much attention to her. In fact, I haven't heard her recently. Well...

Anna Mama has a neighbor. The reason "Mama 2" has been quiet lately is because she started incubating (you can see her beak). This nest is about 20 feet downstream, and at least 20 feet up, near the top of a tree. I didn't know they nest so high. This nest has zero shelter from the rain! Makes me wonder if Mama 2 is not as experienced. Maybe she is one of Mama's chicks from last year?

Anna's hummingbird, Calypte annaOur Mama is out hunting bugs.


They grab them out of the air.


"Not on the face, Mom!"

Just like all babies at this age all they do is eat, sleep and...

Watch for the surprise ending...

I think this one got me...

Nope! Saved by a leaf. I can't believe it actually hit a leaf and not my clothes.

Hit me with your best shot!


3.12.2013  17 days old

They are becoming little birds.

Anna Wing feathers progressing nicely.

Anna Landing gear... check!

Anna's hummingbird, Calypte annaDoin' the hummer dance.


"Open Wide"

Anna A beak full O' bugs.

Anna Off to go hunting...


"Look Mama! There... right behind you!"

I wasn't so lucky today. Also got it on my shirt pocket and camera strap.


They sat still or slept most of the time, except for this active moment. This is the week they will start to investigate their world in preparation for the big fledge.

Kids grow up so fast!


3.14.2013  19 days old

Anna The nest has expanded over a half inch. That spider webbing is good stuff!

They are still sedentary, just sleeping, sitting, eating, and, you know...


Today I had lots of "firsts"... The first time I saw them flap their wings, scratch their face, groom their feathers, and change positions.

Anna The first wing stretch and feather flapping.Anna

Feathers are still individually wrapped.


Working on each feather to unwrap it.

Anna Anna

The first face scratch.

Anna's hummingbird, Calypte anna

"Ahhhh... that feels good!"


Another first for today, the chicks not wanting all that Mom has to offer. I watched them close off to Mama's beak.


"No more Mom, I'm full."


Then she would tap them on the head telling them she had more to feed, but they ignored her.

Anna's hummingbird, Calypte anna

The 24 hour age difference between the two chicks is still apparent in their actions. The younger one has just about caught up in size, he sure looks up to his older brother. Every "first" the older chick tried, the younger one immediately copied him.

Anna "Not during dinner!"

Manners still to be taught.


3.15.2013  20 days old

Their appearance has progressed, feathers have filled in. They look like complete hummingbirds!


With intense interest he watched something fly overhead. So cool to see the chick notice something up so high, how intently he watched it travel from one side to the other. I thought he was going to fly right out of the nest after it.Anna It's a grooming thing...


Mama won't be able to land on the edge of the nest for much longer.Anna




Tongue exercises.


Mama landing on the end of the chick's wing.

Anna Off again...

Anna Business as usual.

Anna "I'm gonna miss you bro!"

Not long now till they fledge.


3.17.2013  22 days old

Their feathers have matured enough now to declare both chicks as males. You can see their gorget feathers forming. The red throat coloring will appear in a few months.

Anna Anna Mama has to feed from the branch now, no room in the inn.

Anna Documenting by iPhone too...


Yes, they let us get this close.Anna She tried to feed on the fly...

Anna Nope, changed her mind, the chicks were full.

Any day now!


3.18.2013  23 days old

Today was a big day. I arrived to find one chick sitting on the rim of the nest, the other still in the nest.

Anna They were busy exercising their wings...

Anna's hummingbird, Calypte anna

Getting a feel for flapping... almost time to take off.


"I'm the king of the world!"


"Hi Mom."


I noticed that Mama doesn't seem to be feeding them bugs anymore, mostly liquid.

Anna Anna

Lot's of grooming.Anna

"Oh y-e-a-h... scratch right there... ahhh... dude that feels good!"

Anna Mama saw something on a branch that caught her attention. She was picking at it, then flew off.

Anna's hummingbird, Calypte annaMom came back and started nipping at the chick's back end.


She was encouraging him to "Just Do It".


And sure enough...

Anna Just a few minutes later...


He started flapping his wings...


He experienced his first airborne moment!

Anna's hummingbird, Calypte annaHe flew up the branch about 6-8 inches and landed.


Then made his way back down to the nest and crawled in completely exhausted.

What a Rush!


3.19.2013  24 days old

Bye Bye Birdies!

Today was departure day. I almost missed it! When I arrived, the older chick was already gone, didn't see him anywhere. The younger chick was still sitting on the nest. I set up the flash, as I moved the branch, he must have flown off. I turned around and the nest was vacant! Talk about an empty feeling, after all this not getting to see either of them leave. I was sad. But then...

Anna Look who I saw sitting on a branch just above the nest!

Anna Mama is still feeding him.

Anna He kept licking each branch he landed on.

Anna He flew to several different branches, further and further away.

Anna I don't know how long the chicks are fed after they fledge.

Anna's hummingbird, Calypte anna He was now too far away. I realized that was it. I was done.

I packed up my gear and just sat there taking it all in.

What an incredible experience!

In Memoriam

I've heard that hummingbirds are messengers for the spirit world, bringing balance to nature and spirit. Maybe via a supernatural world wide web? I can't explain how I was able to find Mama's nest so quickly (or at all)! Upon arrival I was drawn straight to Mama, requiring me to walk right by a no trespassing gate, which I did without a second thought. Not something I usually do. I walked down the hill and kept walking until I hit the creek and could go no further. I immediately looked up and saw Mama pulling at spider webbing up near the top of a tree. I watched her gather the webbing for a few seconds, she then flew directly to her nest. I was stunned how quickly this played out.

Not two minutes later I heard my phone's email sound. I grabbed it wondering why was I bothering to check my email when I just found the perfect hummingbird nest. It was an email notifying me that my dear sweet Aunt Connie was dying, only days left. I was stunned again.

This hummingbird experience is dedicated to my beloved Aunt Connie 3.27.18 ~ 2.8.13

I am also dedicating this to my beautiful Aunt Mary, who sent me money to publish my first photography book. I've saved the money waiting for a subject worthy of being published. I look forward to sending my aunt the very first nest story book printed.


Gear Used:

Canon 7D Camera

Canon 300mm F4L Lens

Canon 400mm F5.6L Lens

Canon Speedlite 580EXII Flash with PocketWizards

Manfrotto Monopod with Ball Head

Olympus EM-5 Mirrorless Camera with Flash Unit (close up photos and video)

Olympus 12-50mm Lens with Macro

iPhone 5


This photographer would like to thank:

Carl Jackson ~ Thank you for the use of your gear, especially the mirrorless camera.  And thank you for your ideas and suggestions. This labor of love would not be anywhere near what it is without you. Thank you so much!

Whoever owns the land I was trespassing on for not finding me down there (or not turning me in if you did).

And, most of all, a huge THANK YOU to Mama and her chicks for putting up with my invasion into their world.


Gallery Photos (larger viewing size): http://www.kimmichaels.com/HummingbirdNestStory


Dave Weldon(non-registered)
Carl turned me onto your incredible photos and blog! I really appreciate your dedication to following it through all the way from start to finish :-). What's your next project?
David Stelle(non-registered)
I had a similar experience with a nest right outside my front door in an artificial tree!
So I TOTALLY connected with your far-superior-than-my-videos photographs.
Your writing gives me a real understanding of your perspectives and feelings about the content, too.
Congratulations on a beautiful heartfelt blog and website. I get it.
(I don't know what's going on with the Comments here; there should be hundreds. Don't get that.)
Kim Michaels
I had to break up this nest story into two posts:

BC - Before Chicks ~ Nest building till day before hatching.

AD - Awesome Day ~ From day of birth to fledge.

It's Hummer Nesting Time

Raising Hummer Chicks

If you have trouble viewing the videos, turn off the HD.

Thank you!
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